AFSA Retirement Newsletter - October 2020

In this issue you will find:

  1. Official Retiree Benefits Information
  2. Retirement Planning
  3. Age and Service Requirements for Retirement Eligibility and Minimum Age Requirements
  4. Post-retirement earnings and their effect on the Annuity Supplement or Social Security Payments
  5. AFSA launches public outreach campaign: The U.S. Foreign Service: Our First Line of Defense
  6. FEHB Open Season – How AFSA can help you consider your options
  7. How New Legislation Affects Your Retirement Savings
  8. Moved? New Email? Update Your Information for the 2021 AFSA Directory of Retired Members
  9. COLA for 2021 is 1.3%
 

Official Retiree Benefits Information

The 2021 Foreign Service Annual Annuitant Newsletter published by State Department’s Office of Retirement should be posted online by early November at https://RNet.state.gov under the “What’s New?” tab. Publication precedes the annual FEHB Open Season which begins November 9 and ends December 14. Retirees will receive a postcard from the State Department encouraging them to review the newsletter.

The nearly 40-page newsletter includes information on the annual Cost of Living Adjustment, instructions for logging on to Annuitant Express to view your annuity statements, and an explanation of how your annuity is taxed. It also includes instructions on how to report post-retirement marriage or divorce and instructions on how your next-of-kin can apply for survivors’ benefits. There is information about the Re-Employed Annuitant (formerly WAE) program and the Combined Federal Campaign. It includes a form if you want to change your FEHB coverage.

 

Retirement Planning

If you were not among the 600+ members who tuned into our recent webinar on Early and Mid-Career Retirement Planning, you can view a video recording posted in the AFSA website’s Retirement Services section. There you will also find a handy 12-item checklist of steps to take long before you reach retirement eligibility. The website has many other resources for retirement planning.

AFSA encourages active duty members to take advantage of retirement seminars offered by the Foreign Service Institute. At least through the end of this year, they are being presented entirely online and thus are available to members worldwide. The FSI seminars are: RV105 (2-day, early and mid-career), RV106 (half-day, annuity/TSP/financial planning) and RV101 (4-day, late career). RV106 has two sub-components that can be taken individually if you do not have time to view the full four days: RV103 (1-day, financial planning/estates) and RV104 (1-day, annuity/TSP/Social Security).

State Department employees register online via the FSI Intranet site (unless the training is in conjunction with PCS or HL in which case register via your CDO). Non-DOS employees register via their agency’s HR office which submits a funded SF-182 Request for Training to the FSI Office of the Registrar, fax 703-302-7152. For registration procedures for EFMs, see https://fsitraining.state.gov/Search?q=RV and then click on the course number.

 

Age and Service Requirements for Retirement Eligibility and Minimum Age Requirements

AFSA Vice President for Retirees John Naland's recent presentation on Early and Mid-Career Retirement Planning, mentioned above, precipitated a few questions in our chat concerning age and service requirements for retirement eligibility and Minimum Age Requirements (MRAs). Many participants have not had occasion to acquaint themselves with the Retirement Network of the Department of State, an internet site that contains comprehensive retirement information to include the detailed tables that spell out age and service requirements for retirement eligibility and Minimum Age Requirements. For those of you with questions regarding your eligibility, this site is the authoritative and detailed source for that information.

 

Post-retirement earnings and their effect on the Annuity Supplement or Social Security Payments

We have received a few questions regarding post-retirement earnings and their effect on benefits. There is an earnings test for recipients of the Annuity Supplement or Social Security. But first some background. The Annuity Supplement is paid to federal retirees who are under age 62. It automatically terminates at age 62 when retirees have the option to start receiving Social Security benefits. If you are a FS retiree between your Minimum Retirement Age (55-57 depending on year of birth) and age 62, your Annuity Supplement will be reduced $1 for every $2 if you have W-2 wage earnings over $18,240 a year. The same reduction applies if you are receiving Social Security benefits between age 62 and your Full Retirement Age (65-67 depending on year of birth).

 

AFSA launches public outreach campaign: The U.S. Foreign Service: Our First Line of Defense

On September 10 and October 15, AFSA hosted two webinars for retired members to discuss the official launch of our public outreach campaign: “The U.S. Foreign Service: Our First Line of Defense.”

The hour-long webinars included information about the campaign strategy and objectives as well as the resources available to members. The webinars also included an overview of virtual platforms such as Zoom and a discussion of best practices of virtual presentations. If you we unable to join, the webinar recording is available on our campaign page: https://www.afsa.org/first-line-defense.

The goal of our campaign is to help broaden the domestic constituency for the Foreign Service. You can get involved by joining our growing roster of messengers; sharing stories and videos on social media using our social media toolkit; and/or by reaching out to your local community colleges and other local organizations to see if they’d be interested in hosting a virtual presentation.

To get started visit https://www.afsa.org/first-line-defense or email ruzica@afsa.org. AFSA stands ready to support members as needed, whether with presentations, additional resources, or virtual platform inquiries. Looking forward to hearing from you!

 

FEHB Open Season – How AFSA can help you consider your options

Federal Employee Health Benefits Plan (FEHB) Open Season rolls around again on Monday, November 9 through Monday, December 14, 2020. This open season is for the 2021 plan year of federal benefit programs.

Here is how AFSA can help you:

AFSA provides members free access to the Consumers’ Checkbook on the FEHB. The Checkbook is generally considered the best tool on the market to compare FEHB plans. It offers qualitative ratings of the plans based on consumer feedback. It also will allow you to compare plans side-by-side and to generate personalized cost estimates. The Checkbook will become available the first week of Open Season, and AFSA will send out an email to notify you of the date the week prior.

Paula Jakub, CEO and Executive Vice President of the American Foreign Service Protective Association (AFSPA), will give a presentation on factors to consider this Open Season via AFSA Zoom on Friday, November 13 from 12:00 to 1:00. Stay tuned for an announcement with registration information. This program will be recorded for all members to have access about one week after the event.

And don't forget about AFSA's Retirement Services page, which contains sections on the FEHB and Medicare, and has links to a variety of authoritative sources on both subjects.

And finally, the Office of Personnel Management's (OPM) website has a section devoted to the Open Season that includes comprehensive plan information and comparison tools. https://www.opm.gov/healthcare-insurance/open-season

Please note that The Federal Employees’ Group Life Insurance (FEGLI) Program and the Federal Long-Term Care Insurance Program (FLTCIP) do not participate in the annual open season.

 

How New Legislation Affects Your Retirement Savings

If you are interested in learning about new legislation important to retirees, members can access Edward A. Zurndorfer's June AFSA Zoom presentation entitled "How the SECURE Act and the CARES Act Are Affecting the TSP, Other Qualified Retirement Plans and IRAs" here. Mr. Zurndorfer, a noted federal benefits expert, is a Certified Financial Planner, a Chartered Financial Consultant, and a Certified Employee Benefits Specialist. He is a frequent and valued guest speaker at AFSA and writes for numerous national publications on federal retirement topics.

 

Moved? New Email? Update Your Information for the 2021 AFSA Directory of Retired Members

If you have moved, changed your email address and/or phone number please let AFSA know so we can include your most up-to-date information in the AFSA Directory of Retired Members. The deadline for changes is November 2, 2020.

The Retiree Directory only lists name, address, telephone, and email. If any of these have changed for you in the past year please do the following:

  • Look at your listing in the Retiree Directory from last year to see if it needs to be updated.
  • If it does or if you do not have a directory, please make your changes either by:
    1. Emailing AFSA
    2. Logging on to our online system to update your listing. Please note, when searching for your name, just enter your first and last name.

AFSA members always have access to the directory by logging into their account on the AFSA website. Therefore, some members have requested to not receive a hard copy of the directory. If you’re in this camp and would prefer not to receive a hard copy of the 2021 Directory of Retired Members, please let us know.

 

COLA for 2021 is 1.3%

The COLA is the smallest since 2017 and slightly below the 1.4% average over the past ten years, due to low inflation. More details are available at https://www.usatoday.com/story/money/2020/10/13/social-security-cola-2021-benefits-rise-1-3-next-year/5977421002/.